We’ve all heard the phrase “history is written by the victors”. There is an African proverb that says the same basic thing: “Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.” In other words, those who write the history will tell it from their point of view. This seems to be only natural and common sense. Consider, however, what happens when the loser writes the story, and that is the one that is most accessible to us.
One example of this would be the Mongols. They have a nasty reputation as being barbaric, blood thirsty, heartless conquerors who will slaughter innocent victims along with soldiers with no regard for women or children or what folks call the “Rules of Engagement”. Movies about the Mongols have titles such as “Genghis Khan: Terror and Conquest” or “Mongols: Storm from the East”. Horrific! These are not people you would want to meet in a dark alley (what are you doing in a dark alley anyway? Get out of there!).
But the majority of sources about Genghis Khan and the Mongols up until pretty recently have been Persian, Russian or Chinese. In other words, those people who had been conquered by the Mongols. Not the most unbiased source, eh?
There is another side to the Mongols, though. While they were indeed very skilled in battle and fought with great ferocity, they certainly weren’t that much different at it than any other civilization around at the time. They were better at it, otherwise how else could they have conquered such a huge empire? (See http://www.nationalgeographic.com/genghis/khanmap.html or go back to the Maps of War site discussed in this post)
The part of the story that isn’t as well-known is the role that the Mongols played in supporting trade and interaction across Eurasia. You can learn more about that side of the Mongols here.
Does the information on the Asia for Educators site surprise you? Why? How?